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Payne: The Crows and the Hawk

[Go back to The Unjust King and the Pilgrim Prince]

There was once, in a certain desert, a spacious valley, full of streams and trees and fruits and birds singing the praises of God, the One, the All-powerful, Creator of day and night; and among them was a troop of crows, which led the goodliest of lives under the governance of one of their number, who ruled them with mildness and benignity, so that they were with him in peace and security; and by reason of their wise ordinance of their affairs, none of the other birds could avail against them. In course of time there befell their chief that which is irrevocably appointed to all creatures and he died; whereupon the others mourned sore for him, and what added to their grief was that there was not amongst them one like unto him. who should fill his place. So they all assembled and took counsel together of whom it befitted to set over them: and some of them chose one crow, saying, "It beseemeth that this one be king over us;" whilst others objected to him and would none of him; and thus there arose division and dissension among them and the strife waxed hot between them.

At last they agreed to sleep the night upon it and that none should go forth at peep of dawn next morning to seek his living, [as of wont], but that all should wait till daybreak, when they should meet all in one place. "Then," said they, "we will all take flight at once and whichsoever soars above the rest in his flying, we will make king over us." So they did as they had agreed and took flight all, but each of them deemed himself higher than his fellow; wherefore quoth this one, "I am highest," and that, "Nay; that am I." Then said the lowest of them , "Look up, all of you, and whomsoever ye find the highest of you, let him be your chief." So they raised their eyes and seeing the hawk soaring over them, said to each other, "We agreed that which bird soever should be the highest of us should be king over us, and behold, the hawk is the highest of us: what say ye to him?" And they all cried out, saying, "We accept of him."

So they called the hawk and said to him, "O father of good, we have chosen thee governor over us, that thou mayst look into our affair." The hawk consented, saying, "God willing, ye shall have of me great good." But, after awhile, he fell to taking a company of them and betaking himself with them afar off to one of the caves, where he struck them down and eating their eyes and brains, threw their bodies into the river. Thus he did every day, it being his intent to destroy them all, [one after another], till, seeing that their number diminished daily, the crows flocked to him and said, "O our king, we complain to thee for that, since the day we made thee king and ruler over us, we are in the sorriest case and every day a company of us is missing and we know not the cause of this, more by token that the most part thereof are of those in attendance on thee."

Thereupon the hawk waxed wroth with them and said to them, "Verily it is ye who have slain them, and ye forestall me [with accusation]." So saying, he pounced upon them and tearing half a score of their chiefs [in pieces] before the rest, threatened them and drove them out from before him with blows and buffets. So they repented them of that which they had done and said, "We have known no good since the death of our first king, especially in the deed of this stranger in kind; but we deserve [all we suffer], even had he destroyed us to the last of us, and there is exemplified in us the saying of Him who saith, 'He who submitteth not himself to the rule of his own people, the enemy hath dominion over him, of his ignorance.' And now there is nothing for it but to flee for our lives, else shall we perish." So they took flight and dispersed to various places.

And we, O king,' continued the vizier, 'we feared lest the like of this befall us and a king become ruler over us, other than thyself; but God hath vouchsafed us this boon and hath sent us this blessed child, and now we are assured of peace and union and security and prosperity in the land. So blessed be God the Great and to Him be thanks and praise and fair honour! And may He bless the king and us all his subjects and vouchsafe unto us and him the utmost felicity and make his life happy and his fortune constant!'

Then arose the sixth vizier and said, 'God grant thee all felicity, O king, in this world and the next! Verily, the ancients say, "He who prayeth and fasteth and giveth parents their due and is just in his rule meeteth his Lord and He is well pleased with him." Thou hast been set over us and hast ruled us justly and thine endeavour in this hath been blessed; wherefore we beseech God the Most High to make great thy reward and requite thee thy goodness. I have heard what this wise man hath said respecting our fear for the loss of our prosperity, by reason of the death of the king or the advent of another who should not be like him, and how after him dissensions would be rife among us and calamity betide thereupon, and how it behoved up therefore to be instant in prayer to God the Most High, so haply He might vouchsafe the king a happy son, to inherit the kingship after him. But, after all, the issue of that which man desireth of the goods of the world and after which he lusteth is unknown unto him, and it behoveth him to ask not of his Lord a thing whose issue he knoweth not; for that belike the hurt of the thing is nearer to him than its profit and his destruction may be in that he seeketh and there may befall him what befell the serpent-charmer's wife and children and the people of his house.' 'What was that?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' replied the vizier, 'that...

[Go to The Serpent-Charmer and His Wife]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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